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Rosemary Parker Honored with President's Distinguished Service Award

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Photo: Stephanie S. Cordle/University of Maryland

Rosemary Parker, director of the Clark School's Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering, was honored with the President's Distinguished Service Award at the University of Maryland's 38th annual Convocation. The event, held September 15, 2021, celebrated faculty and staff awardees for their contributions to education, research, and the campus community.

The President's Distinguished Service Award recognizes exceptional performance, leadership, and service by members of the university staff. Recipients of this award have a record of exemplary performance and distinctive contributions to the operation of an administrative, academic, research, or service unit on campus. Awardees also clearly demonstrate initiative toward the improvement of university programs or campus activities and will have shown commitment to the campus community as a whole.

Throughout her 40 years of leadership of the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering (CMSE), Rosemary Parker has supported more than 10,000 students, from high schoolers to doctoral candidates; attracted millions of dollars of funding from government and industry sources; and created a plethora of programs, all to strengthen diversity among the university's STEM graduates.

The backbone of the center, Parker tirelessly creates a welcoming environment, builds a strong sense of community, and helps students overcome obstacles.

“Rosemary has always been committed to combating the inequities that have existed for minoritized students,” says Sharon Fries-Britt, professor of higher education and distinguished scholar-teacher. “Her professional commitments to provide pathways for success have resulted in tremendous opportunities for countless students.”

Parker came to UMD in 1979, after finishing her B.A. in psychology at Lafayette College and M.S. at the State University of New York at Oswego. She served as an undergraduate advisor, then assistant and acting director of CMSE before taking the reins in 1989.

She has launched numerous pre-college programs and is vice chair of the Project Lead the Way Program Advisory Committee for Prince George's County Public Schools. Along with colleagues, she created a bridge program for new freshmen, and, with a National Science Foundation grant, supported 79 graduate students through the Bridge to the Doctorate program.

Her impact is undeniable: At the time of the center's founding in 1981, UMD had graduated fewer than 60 Black engineering students over the previous 30-year period. Today, it's graduating more than 100 students underrepresented in STEM annually.

Alums, many of whom were first-generation college students, passionately cite Parker’s warmth and caring—from buying them groceries to delivering pep talks—as critical to their perseverance and graduation.

“Ms. Parker was the consistent, stable, motherly voice that would always encourage me, and many other students like me, to ‘get those A’s,’” says Renee Reynolds ’00, who later earned a master’s degree and has spent 21 years as an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “I will never forget how Ms. Parker always believed in me.”

Published October 6, 2021